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Australian troops decorated for helping to recover Osprey wreckage

Lt. Gen. David Berger, Marine Forces Pacific commander, speaks with members of Australian Clearance Diving Team One after presenting a U.S. Meritorious Unit Commendation aboard the HMAS Adelaide in Sydney, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018.

KIERAN DEMPSEY/ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY

By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 29, 2018

Australian troops who helped salvage an MV-22 Osprey after a deadly crash last summer off the country’s eastern coast have been awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Marine Lt. Gen. David Berger, commander of Marine Forces Pacific, presented the award Monday to 107 Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen aboard the Royal Australian Navy’s amphibious-assault ship HMAS Adelaide in Sydney.

“The United States Meritorious Unit Commendation is a great honor for our servicemembers and the Australian public can be proud of what our people achieved,” Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

The crash, which took the lives of Capt. Benjamin Cross, Cpl. Nathaniel Ordway and Lance Cpl. Ruben Velasco, happened just after 4 p.m. Aug. 5 when the helicopter-plane hybrid from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 left the deck of the amphibious-assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and attempted to land on the amphibious-transport dock USS Green Bay. The ships had been operating off the Australian coast as a part of the massive bilateral training exercise Talisman Saber 2017, which wrapped up at the end of July.

The Osprey reportedly crashed into the Green Bay’s deck and slid into the sea, trapping the Marines inside. Twenty-three others were rescued.

Australia immediately sent divers and recovery ships to the scene and, a day later, divers from the HMAS Melville found the wreckage 165 feet below in the Coral Sea.

An Australian navy team conducted 14 dives to the wreckage in sometimes difficult conditions, the Australian statement said.

The Marine Corps announced Aug. 25 that the Marines’ bodies had been recovered.

“The Australian forces volunteered their help before we could even ask, demonstrating the deep ties and enduring nature of the alliance between our two countries,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said shortly after recovery efforts began.

The commendation praises the Australians’ “unrelenting perseverance and unfailing devotion to duty,” Payne said.

The commendation was presented to members of Maritime Operations, Australian Clearance Diving Team One, Australian Mine Warfare Team Sixteen, Navy Hydrographic Ship Crew Blue embarked on HMAS Melville, and to members of the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group, the Australian statement said.

cook.leon@stripes.com

Twitter: @LeonCook12

Lt. Gen. David Berger, Marine Forces Pacific commander, presents a U.S. Meritorious Unit Commendation to Australia Defence Force personnel involved in last year's recovery of an MV-22 Osprey, aboard the HMAS Adelaide in Sydney, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018.
TARA BYRNE/ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY

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